WHO AM I, AGAIN?
Hey, I wrote a book!
They call it an autobiography, but it didn’t feel like that. What it actually felt like was laughing and crying like a maniac until it was all on the page.
In this first book (because it is probably going to be a trilogy), I talk about my early years, from nought to 16.
You learn about my mum, my dad, my birth dad, my brothers and sisters, my mates, “hintegration” (with an H), my school, incidents of racism, many, many happinesses and many more sadnesses, but all wrapped up in my usual rolling, tangential style.
It’s coming out in paperback soon, but the hardback is absolutely dope (and I think I get more cash for saying that). So please check it out. It was on Book at Bedtime on Radio 4, and there’s an audio book as well. But you should check this book out. I’m really proud of it.
You can get hold of the hardback and the audiobook at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-am-again-Lenny-Henry/dp/0571342590
My publishers are Faber and Faber. One of the reasons I’m with Faber and Faber is because when we were talking to different publishers about my book, it was very clear that there are ways and ways to do an autobiography.
You can you can have a ghost-writer, which is a saving on time. Basically they write the book. It’s a kind of cut and paste, and you maybe do three or four interviews for it. That’s one way of doing it. I’ve read some of those, and they’re great.
You can do it like that or you can just go for it and write it yourself, which is what I chose to do. In Aaron Sorkin’s famous masterclass, he talks about the “grip it and rip it” approach, where you grip the golf club and just smack the hell out of the ball. I just wanted to just go for it like that, and let the chips fall where they may.
But a lot of the publishers kept saying, “You’ll do lots of publicity and you’ll go on the TV chat shows and you’ll go on this and that.” Funnily enough, the ones that were offering the most money were the ones that didn’t really talk about the content of the book at all. They just talked about me being in space with a huge billboard, or riding an elephant with the book’s title stencilled on its side, ringing a bell. Nobody was talking about content.
Then I went to Faber and Faber and met this wonderful guy called Walter Donahue. He used to be a commissioning editor at Channel Four Film. And he said the thing that got me. He said, “Siegfried Sassoon wrote Memoirs of an Infantry Officer for Faber and Faber. It was his first book. And it’s still in print today.”
And I went, “Oh my God, I want to be here. I want a book that lasts that long.”
Throughout the writing process, I just felt that so much care and attention and nurturing went into making sure the book was exactly what I wanted it to be. What was palpable was that Walter really cared about the content and ensured it was precisely as I intended it to be. So I’m reading Memoirs of an Infantry Officer now, just to see the standard, and so far, the quality of writing is very high. It’s a powerful, brilliant story.